Star Trek: Generations, released in 1994, is the first Star Trek motion picture to star the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Three members of the cast from the original series and first six films do make an appearance in the film though with the beginning of Generations taking place at the christening of the USS Enterprise-B (the third ship to be named Enterprise in the Federation).
The film begins with a bottle of champagne spinning through space as the opening credits proceed, shattering on the hull of the Enterprise-B once the credit are completed. Captains James T. Kirk (William Shatner), Montgomery "Scotty" Scott (James Doohan), and Commander Pavel Chekov (Walter Koenig), all members of the original series' crew, are on hand as special guests for the Enterprise-B's maiden voyage. Scotty, Chekov, and Kirk (in particular) are generally bored with the whole ordeal... until the Enterprise-B receives a distress call that is. Hesistant to answer but given no choice as being the only ship in the area (which is odd considering they were in the Sol system, where Earth, the headquarters of the Federation and Starfleet, is located), the new and inexperienced captain of the Enterprise-B sets off to rescue a convoy of ships from a mysterious ribbon of energy travelling through space. With the aid of Captain Kirk the Enterprise-B manages to rescue a handful of the convoy's passengers and escape from the energy ribbon itself, though seemingly at the cost of Kirk's life. Amongst the rescued in the Enterprise-B's sick bay, the audience catches a glimpse of a man sedated as he's struggling and screaming that he has to get back and Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg), a semi-regular character on Star Trek: The Next Generation.
The film then flashes forward seventy eight years to the officers of the Enterprise-D from Star Trek: The Next Generation on a ship that named Enterprise that would have sailed the seas of Earth centuries before the present (that is, our present, not the movie's present, which is several hundred years in the future). The ship and the sea are creations of the holodeck, a room on the Enterprise capable of reproducing life-like environments for leisure purposes. The crew is there for a ceremony honoring Worf's (Michael Dorn) promotion to Leiutenant Commander. Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) leaves the ceremony early after receiving unfortunate news from Earth. The entire ceremony is cut short not a few seconds later when Commander William Riker (Jonathan Frakes) is informed that a distress call has been received from a nearby observatory station.
Once there the away team finds the station has been ransacked by Romulans. One of the few survivors of the attack is one Dr. Tolian Soran (Malcolm McDowell), which the audience likely recognises as the man frantic to "get back" to the energy ribbon in the sick bay of the Enterprise-B almost eighty years earlier. Unfortunately he's still obsessed with returning to what the audience later finds out is a place called the Nexus and is willing to do anything to get there.
Certainly not a bad film, especially for an odd-numbered Star Trek flick, but I get the feeling that it could have been much better. The movie is pretty fast-paced and I think perhaps the want to keep this pace by the writers (Rick Berman, Ronald D. Moore, Brannon Braga) and director (David Carson) is what caused Generations not to become the better movie it could have been. While not necessarily "action-packed," the movie does keep going at a pretty steady, quick pace, only touching on a few things that could have given the movie a lot more depth.
Not that the movie doesn't have its good points. It does. The acting is, for the most part, very well done (something Star Trek movies aren't too strong with). In particular, Patrick Stewart does an excellent job portraying Picard in the injured emotional state he enters as a result of the news he receives. The direction is good as well. I liked a lot of quick camera work that is used in a few scenes. I also particularly liked the way the lighting was done in many of the scenes on board the Enterprise, despite it being dramatically different from the way it was done on the series (even though it was supposed to be on the same ship). The special effects are top-notch. There are several subplots going on throughout the film which, though only touched on, does make many of the film's characters seem like actual people. It's unfortunate that more time isn't spent on these or that certain characters (Dr. Beverly Crusher, played by Gates McFadden, in particular) that had been a large part of the series for years have very little screen time. Once again, it seems the movie's fast pace turns what could have been great into something good-but-not-that-good.
Bits of Trivia
- Data's (Brent Spiner) quarters look a lot different than they did in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Doesn't really matter but it caught my eye. Data's emotion chip also looks a lot different. It's bigger. If I remember correctly, it's also supposed to go in his neck, not his head.
- Some members of the Next Generation cast almost turned down their parts because they were too small. The script originally called for more of the original series' crew to be present at the Enterprise-B's christening but many of them actually did turn down their parts because they were too small.
- This is the only movie featuring the Next Generation crew that wasn't directed by Jonathan Frakes (who plays Commander Riker). This won't be the case when the next film comes out, which he also didn't direct.
Patrick Stewart as Captain Jean-Luc Picard
Jonathan Frakes as Commander William T. Riker
Brent Spiner as Lieutenant Commander Data
LeVar Burton as Lieutenant Commander Geordi LaForge
Michael Dorn as Lieutenant Commander Worf
Gates McFadden as Doctor Beverly Crusher
Marina Sirtis as Counsellor Deanna Troi
Malcolm McDowell as Doctor Tolain Solran
William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk
Whoopi Goldberg as Guinan
There are spoilers beyond this point, primarily detailing how I think the film could have been better. Don't get me wrong: I do actually like this movie quite a bit, I just think it could have been a lot better.
The android Data implants the emotion chip he obtained from his brother Lore in the series during this film. Worried by the idea that it might overload his systems (though the reason originally given in the series for why Data didn't implant the chip is that not only was damaged but after being manipulated with it by Lore, Data believed that he shouldn't use it), Data decides to implant the chip anyway as he feels he's progressed as far as he can as an artifical lifeform without it. This topic is merely touched on before Data's best friend/Enterprise chief engineer Geordi LaForge (LeVar Burton) plugs the thing into Data's head and probably could have been explored further. Beyond that, Data's behavior as a result of his newly acquired emotions seems largely to result in a few scenes of comic relief (not that I didn't absolutely enjoy Data shouting "Oh shit!" when it became apparant that the Enterprise's saucer section would be crash landing into the countryside of a planet it had previously been orbiting - I remember most people in the theatre cheering at this bit of dialogue). Even though Data's emotional responses did lead to the capture of Lt. Cmdr. LaForge by Dr. Soran and the Duras sisters, Data's grief over the matter, though touched upon, seemed only a sidenote.
Basically, throughout the series' seven year run, Data has longed for real human emotions. In Generations, he finally attains them and the results seem to be only glanced at.
The appearance of the Duras sisters, a pair of Klingons that caused a ton of trouble for the Klingon Empire and, especially, Worf, seems a bit played down as well. Sure, anyone watching whose seen them in the show knows they're trouble, and they do a lot of damage in this movie, but the reactions of the characters in the film to them seems to be much less than one would expect. Worf, in particular, doesn't even seem to care, despite the pain in the ass they've been for him in the past.
And, while on the subject of the damage they caused, it seems that either destroying the current Enterprise or at least badly damaging or crippling it seems to be becoming a cliche of Star Trek movies. It seems a bit odd that after seven years of travelling around the galaxy facing all manner of deadly foes, only when the Duras sisters get lucky that Dr. Soran took LaForge prisoner and not any other crew member that they can destroy the Enterprise (or, at least, the drive section, depending on how you want to look at it). Granted, they die in the process, but come on! In the nine Star Trek movies that have been released at the time of this writing, five of them feature heavy damage to and/or the destruction of a ship called Enterprise:
- Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan - Kirk's Enterprise gets the crap knocked out of it when fired upon with its shields down by Khan twice (once when the Enterprise first encounters the Reliant and again when the two ships are battling in the nebula).
- Star Trek III: The Search for Spock - Kirk and company set the Enterprise to self-destruct in an effort to prevent being captured and allowing the ship to fall into the hands of Klingons.
- Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country - The Enterprise-A gets pretty beat up in a battle with a Klingon Bird of Prey that can fire while cloaked. At the end the crew is informed they are to return and the ship to be decommissioned. This one only lasted two movies.
- Star Trek: Generations - The Duras sisters damage the ship enough by finding a way to fire through its shields that the warp core breaches, destroying the drive/battle section of the ship (this is basically any part of the ship that isn't the saucer-shaped piece). The crew is evacuated to saucer section, which detaches and attempts to move away before the drive section explodes. They aren't far enough away, however, and the shock wave sends the saucer section crashing into the planet below. Then, before Picard can stop Dr. Soran's plan to destroy the system's star (which creates another shock wave that pretty much obliterates everything in the system), said über-shock wave destroys the planet (but fortunately because of the Nexus, Picard and Kirk return to save the day, the system, and the saucer section).
- Star Trek: First Contact - The Borg begin assimilating the Enterprise-E. They make a cozy little nest for the queen in main engineering and turn a good portion of the ship into... um, Borg-ness.
Maybe I just really wanted to see more than one movie with the Enterprise-D
. I have seen the majority of seven seasons worth of shows with this ship. Disappointing to see her blown up
so quick and easily.
And so ends my spiel on Generations. Good but could have been much better.